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Invasive species highlight farmers' meeting

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DELHI, La. (KNOE 8 News) – Invasive species and residue management highlighted a recent (Feb. 6) LSU AgCenter agriculture producer meeting.

Goss's wilt and redbanded stinkbugs have become problems for Louisiana corn and soybean growers, said Rogers Leonard, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor and program leader for plants and soils.

Leonard said growers should be on the lookout for something new or something they haven't seen before. "If you see something, contact the AgCenter," he said.

Goss's wilt is a fungal infection in corn that appeared for the first time in northeast Louisiana in 2013. It was discovered in Nebraska in 1969 and has moved through corn-producing areas of the United States.

Infected corn displays symptoms of leaf blight and "has the potential to cause major losses to susceptible hybrids," said AgCenter plant pathologist Trey Price.

While Goss's wilt may be a one-time occurrence in Louisiana, Price advised growers to plant resistant hybrids. "It's our best management option," he said.

Producers have several options for managing crop residues following harvest, said LSU AgCenter agronomist Josh Lofton.

Lofton said the plusses for maintaining a residue cover include increased organic matter in the soil, holding rainfall to prevent runoff, providing nutrients and reducing both weed pressure and soil erosion.

Minuses include immobilizing nitrogen, creating overwintering habitat for problem fungi and insects, interfering with planting and keeping soils cool as planting time approaches.

Producers must "accentuate beneficial effects and manage around detrimental effects," Lofton.

One option for managing plant residue is burning, which some producers are considering. This practice, however, results in lost moisture, possible erosion, and lower organic carbon in the soil, Lofton said.

The AgCenter has developed a burn management program, primarily for sugarcane producers in south and central Louisiana, said AgCenter sugarcane specialist Kenneth Gravois.

In talking about the certified burning plan, Gravois said "we'd rather regulate ourselves than have a government agency regulate us.

"We have to regard agricultural burning as a privilege, even though we have the right," Gravois said. "Not everybody understands why we light the match."

A panel of three producers discussed their experience with on-farm storage.

Edward Greer, of Richland Parish, said he primarily stores rice and uses no heat "unless absolutely necessary." It's critical to dry the grain quickly and constantly monitor it, he said.

The advantages of storage include improved harvest efficiency and the need for fewer trucks, he said. "And I can market when I want to market."

Scott Wiggers, of Franklin Parish, said he has used grain bags for seven years and is satisfied with the results.

Bags offer low cost and low maintenance with no long-term investment, he said. They should not be an afterthought, though.

In the field, they require a smooth base, well-drained location and good access.

Tom Sadler, who farms in Tensas Parish, cautioned against insect problems in stored grain. "Start clean; keep it clean," he said.

The main benefit of storage, Sadler said, is "we can keep going."

LSU AgCenter economist Kurt Guidry talked about managing risk in crop marketing.

"Marketing is a form of risk management," Guidry said.

With commodity prices at historical levels over the past three years, the urgency to have a marketing plan likely wasn't there, he said. But today, commodity prices are significantly lower, creating tighter margins and bringing more urgency to having a marketing strategy.

Previous research showed that over a 15-year period, producers who followed a marketing plan were able to generate, on average, a 5-cent to 10-cent advantage over average market prices, Guidry said.

LSU AgCenter entomologist Sebe Brown said, "Making an application for something that's not there can lead to insect resistance."

In reviewing several insecticide options, Brown said, "We've had these chemistries for a long time, so it's no surprise we're seeing resistance. We have plenty of insects in Louisiana that are resistant to a whole lot of insecticides."

Glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth and johnsongrass have shown up in various parts of Louisiana, said AgCenter research associate Josh Copes.

"Don't wait to use residual herbicides," Copes said. "If you find a plant, remove it from the field."

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